NEA Jazz Master Jimmy Owens breaks down the towering influence of Thelonious Monk. You can hear more from the envelope-pushing Owens in this podcast.
Jimmy Owens Transcription
I think first comes Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn and then comes Thelonious Monk and then all others come after him, you know. We have Benny Golson and Harry Silver, and Randy Weston, many of those people are NEA Jazz Masters. Thelonious Monk’s music, that is the most important thing, and what I tried to do with my “Monk Project” was to take those compositions that many musicians had performed and give a little different approach if possible to how we would perform those compositions. So a song like “Blue Monk”, a song like “Well You Needn’t,” “Epistrophy,” that’s in our repertoire. To put the album together, the first thing I thought of, the types of songs that Thelonious Monk had composed that I would like to perform, I would like to record. And I made a list of songs for myself, and then I started to think of the musicians who could interpret that music with the kind of excitement that I wanted to have happen when I would record those songs. And I honed it down to this sized group, which is piano, bass, and drums, trumpet, myself, trombone, tenor saxophone, and I decided to use my friend Howard Johnson playing tuba and baritone saxophone, so each of the musicians were hand-picked for their skill level at performing and I knew that they could turn out a stellar performance of this music. You know, Duke Ellington has always said you can’t write for the trumpet or the trombone or the saxophone, you have to write for individuals.